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Drought Emergency Widens

Farmers from Virginia to Massachusetts are now eligible for low-interest loans as the Agriculture Department declared new disaster areas because of the lingering drought.

All of Connecticut, most of Maryland, six counties in New York, five in Virginia and one in New Mexico received disaster declarations Wednesday.

Growers in counties next to those with disaster designations, including areas of Delaware, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, also are eligible for the assistance.

"This has been a devastating year for farmers in Connecticut and all over the Northeast," Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said during a tour of parched fields in Connecticut. "They've been hit by the lowest farm prices in a decade and are now experiencing this record-setting drought."

All of New Jersey and West Virginia and 34 New York counties were declared disaster areas previously.

The loans are limited to farmers who have lost at least 30 percent of their crops and can't get commercial credit.

Glickman visited a farm owned by Nelson Cecarelli, who estimates he has lost at least 50 percent of his tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, and peppers to the hot, dry weather.

"This is a microcosm of the whole problem. I think the whole state is devastated," Cecarelli said.

Nineteen Maryland counties received the disaster designation Wednesday: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George's, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester.

The six New York counties are Dutchess, Essex, Putnam, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.

The five Virginia counties are Frederick, Giles, Louisa, Montgomery and Warren.

The one New Mexico county is Sierra.